Fears English council will build 7,500 homes and ‘damn consequences’ for Chepstow
Twm Owen, Local Democracy Reporter
An English council will build thousands of new homes “and damn the consequences” for Chepstow, a councillor has claimed.
The Forest of Dean Council has set out where it plans new housing sites, up to 2041, but Monmouthshire council has said a long discussed Chepstow bypass and improvements to public transport and walking and cycling routes would need to be in place before it could support the proposals.
However Councillor Armand Watts, who represents Bulwark and Thornwell, in Chepstow, on Monmouthshire council told colleagues discussing the plan he feared their neighbours will carry on regardless of the impact on the Welsh side of the border.
He said: “The Forest of Dean does not have any real concern about the knock-on effects for us. They are prepared to push ahead with an inordinate amount of housing and damn the consequences.”
The Forest of Dean is planning for up to 7,500 new homes up to 2041, including those already planned since last year, in its Local Development Plan. That includes 2,460 in Lydney, 11 miles from the border town, and 600 in Beachley which is on the opposite bank of the river Wye.
Among the improvements Monmouthshire has said it would need to see is the proposed Chepstow bypass, from the A48 east of Sedbury across the Wye to Thornwell in Chepstow and the M48, being built.
The cost has been estimated at £150 million but concerns have been raised that funding may not be forthcoming for the road which would have to be supported by the Westminster government’s highways agency.
Cllr Watts, who said the reintroduction of free-flowing traffic through Chepstow town centre had eased congestion other than for “one-off incidents such as accidents”, warned councils on both sides of the border need to accept funding for a bypass is unlikely.
He said: “We need to get real about a bypass. The money isn’t going to come from anywhere. It is unaffordable for Gloucestershire or Monmouthshire to build a bypass.”
The councillor said Grant Shapps, when he was the Westminster transport secretary, had cut the budget for road building by £2bn and the Welsh Government is opposed to new road building.
A special meeting of Monmouthshire council’s place scrutiny committee, on Monday, September 26, discussed its response to the consultation on the Forest’s plan.
Cllr Louise Brown (Conservative) who represents Shirenewton, said she considered the number of homes proposed for Lydney “unsustainable” and said people are “well aware” of congestion from the direction of the town.
“The queues, not only at Tesco, but the High Beech roundabout (where the A48 meets the A466) can be for up to half an hour.”
She said she is “very supportive” of a bypass but it would need to go “hand-in-hand” with measures to improve public transport which she said people wouldn’t favour over their cars unless it was reliable and cheaper.
Independent councillor for Wyesham, Emma Bryn, said her concern was more than 600 new homes earmarked for Cinderford and the impact further to the north.
She said: “The congestion is awful going over the Wye Bridge at peak times and it snakes all the way up the hill.”
Monmouthshire council is also calling for public transport improvements, including more frequent trains stopping at Chepstow and Lydney, and improvements to make walking and cycling possible for those commuting to Chepstow and using its train station to travel to Bristol and Cardiff.
A park and ride station east of Chepstow should also be developed, the council has said.
It wants to see a network of walking and cycling routes linking Tutshill, Sedbury and Beachley with Chepstow town centre and railway station, possibly including a foot and cycle bridge connecting Sedbury and the Mabey Bridge development site in Chepstow.
Monmouthshire’s Labour cabinet member Cllr Paul Griffiths told the committee: “We are clear as Monmouthshire County Council we can’t support the growth proposals from the Forest of Dean until the finances are in place for the mitigation measures we have identified most explicit is the relief road.”
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